Embrace the new rivalry

Considering the lack of high tension games down the stretch during the Husky football season, Friday’s basketball game against Wahoo had fans, players and certain sports writers searching for a sweat towel.
For the third time of the academic year, Aurora and Wahoo met in athletic competition after not playing each other for a couple decades. And to be frank, I hope Aurora-Wahoo becomes more of a tradition than a blip in history.
With Aurora’s uncertainty in classification, specifically for football, it makes it tough to tell if the series can blossom into one of the state’s best rivalries. Let’s make it happen, regardless.
The first time Aurora and Wahoo played football Sept. 7, it was talked about as arguably the top game in the state that week. The Huskies ended up winning big.
The two teams were on a collision course to meet in the semifinals of the C-1 playoffs, which was a much closer game than the first one. Aurora won that, too.
For as good as Wahoo is on the gridiron, their tradition runs deep in its hardwood floors. It wasn’t hard to see that upon walking into the gym.
A quick scan of the walls shows state championship after state title. The Warriors were Class C champs in 1926 before winning Class B titles in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1994. Class B schools were more than happy to see them drop to Class C-1 where they won titles in 1996, 1998, 2013 and 2018.
In fact, Wahoo defeated Aurora in the opening round of the 1994 state tournament 81-43 en route to a state title, which was more than likely the last time Aurora and Wahoo met in any form of athletics.  
One banner that hangs inside the gym touts a 114-game winning streak from 1988-1992, described as the third-leading streak in the nation and the best in Nebraska state history. (Oddly enough, Hampton has the sixth-longest winning streak in Nebraska state history with 51).
It totally makes sense -- Aurora and Wahoo are nearly a mirror of each other with both communities close to 4,500 population. In terms of NSAA classification, their boys and girls enrollments are very similar.
Both communities carry a heavy passion for sports. That was clearly evident Friday night in Wahoo. There wasn’t a seat open on either side of the gym.
I know a lot of people in Aurora were upset when Aurora left Class B and said goodbye to several of those rivals, including York, McCook and Scottsbluff.
However, it seems a new rivalry has been dropped at the doorstep and could be a fun one-off game every year on both the football and basketball schedules despite NSAA classifications.
What we as fans received Friday night in a 76-74 overtime thriller doesn’t have to be an outlier. The notion of Aurora-Wahoo makes my palms sweat.
Aurora basketball coach Tom Leininger explained that the Huskies lost a couple games from its traditional schedule and needed to pick up a few. He has a longtime relationship with Wahoo coach Kevin Scheef, which blossomed into what we had Friday night.
“Coach Scheef is a good friend of mine from long ago,” Leininger said. “He’s a great guy and coach.”
Wahoo’s gym is one of the best in the state in terms of atmosphere. The crowd is essentially on top of the floor -- so close they can reach out and grab the players.”
Loud, oh man was it noisy. A tip of the cap to the Wahoo student section, who made it tough on Aurora for awhile.
Coach Leininger and I caught up after the game surrounded by larger than life photos outside the gym of all Wahoo’s state championship teams -- just another sort of ‘intimidation’ factor. It would have been impossible to ignore the Warrior tradition Friday night.
“It was a phenomenal atmosphere,” Leininger said. “Hopefully the kids weren’t looking up and counting the banners and getting caught up in all that because this is one of the best programs in the history of Nebraska basketball. It’s a fun place to coach and play.”
Agreed, coach. Let’s make it a yearly date, shall we?
***
This space was originally reserved to touch on the significant Aurora football records smashed this season until many of those same football kids put on a show in Wahoo.
A swarm of team and individual records of not only school, but state marks were broken and can be seen in full on the graphic.
Obviously, it isn’t hard to look at the Baylor Scheierman records and be awed. I still am. Some of those records he snapped of Scott Frost were nearly 30 years old and previously thought to be untouchable. All by a kid that has football as his second love. Be sure to catch him on the court this year -- he’s already impressed.
Scheierman was already selected to the GI Independent All-Heartland team as the offensive captain and I’m sure will be recognized statewide next week.
Cade Reichardt and Ryan Marlatt both found themselves as first teamers on the All-Heartland list alongside their quarterback. Cy Bullerman and Jordan Stevenson were listed as second team on offense while Rylan Willis made the first team on defense.
It was sure hard to do coming off his junior season, but Reichardt really flew under the radar this year. The Huskies had so many weapon on offense that Scheierman didn’t have to continually target No. 5.
That didn’t stop him from breaking several records to go along with his Class B receptions state record from a year ago.
Then there’s Stevenson, who wasn’t flashy, just efficient. He came up clutch all year long and caught nearly everything thrown to him and now has records to himself, including a few playoff marks.
Sure, Aurora didn’t re-write the entire record book. The Huskies have fielded dominant teams before like in 1986 or 1995, even the 2002 team and the ‘08-‘10 teams.
While some of those team records still stand, the 2018 Huskies sure took an eraser to several of those marks.
RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net.

 

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